There’s this decluttering advice from Marie Kondo that I never recommend to my clients. Let me tell you why…
During 2019 already famous Marie Kondo and her tidying methods became even more popular. I say “already famous” because this adorable Japanese woman has gained her popularity back in 2014. when her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was published in the USA. In 2019 however, her method was introduced by entering people’s homes with TV cameras and Marie herself. I’m talking about the superpopular Netflix series called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo“.
Whether you’re her fan or you’re about to become one, you’ll likely try to follow some of her decluttering rules. For that reason I what to share with you one of those rules, the one which as a professional organizer I never recommend.
WHAT DOES MARIE KONDO SAY ABOUT DECLUTTERING
In her book, Marie Kondo talks, among other things, about the order of tidying i.e. decluttering.
Here’s what she says:
“Start with your clothes, then move on to books, papers and miscellaneous (komono in Japanese), and finally tackle the sentimental objects. If you follow that order, you’ll be working surprisingly easily. If you begin with what’s easy and leave the most difficult task for the end, gradually you’ll develop your decision making skill so that the hard one will seem simple at the end.”
As you can see, Marie says simplicity is the reason for this particular order. She claims the clothing category will be the easiest one for you to declutter, while the most difficult ones (the sentimental ones) you have to leave for later.
I disagree both with this order as well as with her reason. Let me explain why by using the example of one of my clients’.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM
Marie Kondo recommends starting decluttering with clothes as the easiest category. As a professional organizer I see two issues here:
- to most people, the clothing category is not exactly the easiest category for decluttering – quite the opposite. Most people with piles of clothes have issues concerning the wrong perception of value. This wrong perception makes them incapable of detecting the excess and eliminating it. In such circumstances decluttering must be done under constant supervision of an expert, a well experienced professional organizer or a very understanding and well organized friend. The latter is rarely successful in real life
- this rule does not guarantee that once decluttered space will stay that way – following any rule is impossible without motivation and motivation is the biggest issue for many people. Trends and opinions you agree with can encourage you to make changes, but that won’t be enough to resist your weaknesses or inevitable sudden shifts of life circumstances. My clients and workshops attendees are the living proof of that. Many of them have tried this Marie’s rule only to fail, some of them more than once.
MY DECLUTTERING RULE
Not everyone sees their clothes clutter as their biggest organizing issue. Piles of food or dishes clutter might be the biggest stress to some. Why? Because it stands in the way of their priority – providing their family with regular and healthy meals. After all, your chaotic closet won’t make you go out of the house naked, but your cluttered kitchen or pantry will definitely make you eat less healthy.
Or, maybe your home is cluttered all together, but your digital clutter in your computer annoys stresses you out the most. The reason may be the fact you’re in the middle of an important project and your computer is your tool. More importantly, that project is your ticket to your future career and family plans (better job, higher income, bigger house). The digital mess you’re facing daily is effecting your productivity and your future. No clothes are the true priority for you under such circumstances. That doesn’t mean piles of clothes are not important to deal with. It only means those are not the most urgent one.
Therefore, my decluttering rule is – start with the category which burdens you the most.
Also, don’t forget these two things:
- the type of clutter that burdens you the most might be visually relatively small (papers on your desk) or even invisible (like the digital mess I’ve just described) but can still have the biggest effect on your overall wellbeing
- it also doesn’t have to be the easiest type of clutter to deal with, but even so! Once you’re done with it, the rest will only feel easier to declutter. And getting the most difficult task done first is the best way to get and stay motivated.
THE REAL-LIFE STORY
One of my clients has her entire home cluttered. She reached to me for help with too much stuff all over the house, pointing out that decluttering is her huge challenge, as well as her motivation.
during my first visit, I was immediately convinced that her place was really cluttered with clothes, toys, paper, food supplies, and inevitable plastic containers. After a few of my specific questions it became clear her biggest issue was kitchen clutter and her inability to cook easily for her family. Discouraged by her past decluttering failures she kept missing the obvious – that she should simply start with what she cares about the most.
After only a couple of hours of decluttering her kitchen, the precious storage space was emptied, and her motivation was growing. The next day she sent me this message: “What a pleasure it is entering the kitchen and being in it!”
So you see, something far more important happened, than an organized kitchen! What happened was the true meaning of one’s own decluttering rule. The client started planning grocery shopping and the initial decluttering affected her time organization as well! She decluttered her to-do lists and weekly schedules and started making improvements in other organizing areas as well. In spite of the fact that there’s a huge work in front of us, it’ll be a relief doing it because the most important task is done.
As I always point out, prior to every decluttering make sure you’re absolutely clear about your true WHY. It’s all about what bothers YOU the most and what affects YOUR mental peace the most.
Don’t get me wrong though. There’s so much you can learn from Marie Kondo and her life philosophy. Just don’t forget that the only true change comes when you realize and implement your own priorities. A professional organizer is there just to help you express what you already feel. Only then will you be able to discover what category to start your decluttering journey with.